USA TODAY Sports Weekly

’NOVA, MARY­LAND FACE MA­JOR TESTS

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USA TO­DAY Sports’ Scott Glee­son looks at the best col­lege men’s bas­ket­ball matchups this week­end. Records through Mon­day.

No. 4 Vil­lanova at No. 11 Prov­i­dence

Satur­day, 2:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1

About the Wild­cats (18-3, 8-1): Vil­lanova, out front in the Big East, has a case for a No. 1 NCAA tour­na­ment seed. The Wild­cats’ three losses came against top-tier teams Ok­la­homa, Vir­ginia and Prov­i­dence. This is an ex­cel­lent de­fen­sive team. Villa- nova ranks sev­enth na­tion­ally in scor­ing de­fense, al­low­ing 61.2 points per game, and 10th in field goal per­cent­age de­fense, lim­it­ing op­po­nents to 38.1% shoot­ing from the floor. It also has a bal­anced of­fense, with nearly five play­ers av­er­ag­ing in dou­ble fig­ures.

About the Fri­ars (18-4, 6-3): For as much love as fu­ture NBA player Kris Dunn has re­ceived, Ben Ben­til is equally de­serv­ing of at­ten­tion. Ben­til and Rod­ney Bul­lock (12.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg) have blos­somed as sopho­mores to pro­vide Dunn a sup­port­ing cast. Dunn and Ben­til, in par­tic­u­lar, give coach Ed Coo­ley a Big East ti­tle-con­tend­ing team and per­haps even a Fi­nal Four-cal­iber team. Out­side of those three, the of­fense isn’t ex­actly high-oc­tane; no other player av­er­ages more than seven points per game. And the Fri­ars rank 238th na­tion­ally in field goal per­cent­age (42.8%).

Star watch: Vil­lanova guard Josh Hart (15.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and guard Ryan Ar­cidi­a­cono (12.5 ppg, 4.2 apg). Prov­i­dence for­ward Ben­til (20.3 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and guard Dunn (17.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 6.9 apg).

The pick: Vil­lanova. In the teams’ first matchup, coach Jay Wright found a way to stop Dunn. Kind of. The All-Amer­i­can had 13 points and 14 as­sists, but Ben­til had 31 points. Prov­i­dence stole that game on the road in over­time. Now it’s ’Nova’s turn to steal it back.

No. 16 Pur­due at No. 3 Mary­land

Satur­day, 4 p.m., ESPN About the Boil­er­mak­ers (19-4, 7-3): When A.J. Ham­mons plays up to his abil­ity, as he did in a 32-point, 11-re­bound, four-block per­for­mance against Ne­braska on Jan. 30, Pur­due is ex­tremely tough to beat. When he doesn’t, Pur­due loses — to Iowa twice and at base­ment-dwelling Illinois. The 7-footer helps the Boil­er­mak­ers rank se­cond na­tion­ally in re­bound­ing (12.3 per game) and eighth in field goal per­cent­age de­fense (38.1%). A key for this team is fresh­man Caleb Swani­gan (9.9 ppg, 9.0 rpg), who’s re­cov­er­ing from an an­kle in­jury. Pur­due tends to play sloppy, and it of­ten costs them; the Boil­er­mak­ers rank 301st na­tion­ally in turnover mar­gin (-2.0).

About the Ter­rap­ins (19-3, 8-2): The Ter­rap­ins notched a sig­na­ture win Jan. 28, hand­ing Iowa its first Big Ten loss. The con­fer­ence ti­tle is in Mary­land’s grasp; it just has to play its best brand of bas­ket­ball. On pa­per, this is the most com­plete start­ing lineup in the coun­try. In the Iowa win, Duke trans­fer Rasheed Su­lai­mon came up big with 17 points and five as­sists. All five starters have the abil­ity to lead the way of­fen­sively, and coach Mark Tur­geon has a nice mix of veter­ans and up-and-com­ing tal­ent.

Star watch: Pur­due cen­ter Ham­mons (14.3 ppg, 7.9 rpg) and for­ward Vince Ed­wards (10.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg). Mary­land guard Melo Trim­ble (14.5 ppg, 5.4 apg) and for­ward Robert Carter (13.2 ppg, 6.9 rpg).

 ?? MARK L. BAER, USA TO­DAY SPORTS ?? Sopho­more for­ward Ben Ben­til, right, is av­er­ag­ing team highs of 20.3 points and 8.1 re­bounds per game for Prov­i­dence. He is shoot­ing 47.9% from the field.
MARK L. BAER, USA TO­DAY SPORTS Sopho­more for­ward Ben Ben­til, right, is av­er­ag­ing team highs of 20.3 points and 8.1 re­bounds per game for Prov­i­dence. He is shoot­ing 47.9% from the field.

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